Apartment standards should be based on performance

Apartment standards should be based on performance
Urban EditorialJune 10, 2015

The proposed implementation of standards across Melbourne apartments is strongly supported by ClarkeHopkinsClarke, a Melbourne architecture firm committed to the creation and support of vibrant communities.

Contrary to recent media arguing the proposed standards in the Victorian Government’s ‘Better Apartments’ discussion paper will only lead to increased housing prices, we believe the implementation of standards has the potential to encourage greater innovation, particularly if the standards are based on performance.

Currently much debate is focused on the introduction of a minimum standard for room and apartment sizes. While the size of apartments is one aspect to consider, we believe the standards would be more beneficial if based on performance, whereby each situation is accessed on its merits.

The problem with regulating based on size is that a well-planned small apartment of 45 square metres can often have better natural light penetration, to be more spacious and more functional than a poorly planned 50 square metre apartment with unnecessary corridors and few windows. It's all about efficient design, maximising light, space and storage.

One of our recent projects, Parkside Apartments, Essendon, offered 50 square metre apartments with a flexible plan. A large sliding panel adjacent the living area transformed the internal area to create either or larger living area or a second bedroom or study. 50 per cent of the one-bedroom apartments feature this flexible floor plan concept.

The flexi-apartments mean residents can choose between a larger living space or a second bedroom, dining room or study. Whilst these apartments subscribe to the proposed minimum for a one-bedroom apartment, not a two bedroom, they offer choice and flexibility for buyers. Instead of making assumptions about how people want to live, we have provided them with the flexibility to choose for themselves.

The conundrum faced by builders and developers under the proposed standards will be to minimise their construction costs, while providing larger apartments, and maintaining a level of finish that the market has come to expect.

Performance based standards would promote clever and flexible apartment design as builders and developers strive to provide a point of difference in the crowded marketplace.

The City of Moreland’s ‘Moreland Apartment Design Code’ is a great example of performance based planning tool that helps to better inform the needs of residents.

This code dictates a streamlined assessment of development proposals with a set of objectives, guidelines and standards for assessing any development of five or more storeys throughout Moreland. We believe the resource benefits all stakeholders, providing clarity to the council, residents, developers and architects, while also emphasising the importance of site responsive design.

The implementation of the new apartment standards hosts great potential for Melbourne if rolled out effectively. With architects and developers each working towards the similar specifications, we can expect a more competitive marketplace that will fuel innovative solutions, improvements and efficiencies, and provide stakeholders with greater certainty and more measurable outcomes.

The standards also have the potential to ensure better amenity for public and communal spaces, serving to increase the appeal of apartment living overall.

Toby Lauchlan is Partner at Collingwood-based architecture practice ClarkeHopkinsClarke.

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